Looking for an adventure this weekend? How about paragliding? The Wind Kids Paragliding Club offers one day (4~5 hour) paragliding courses at Tainai Ski Area, just to the north of Niigata City. Everyone from the most nervous first timer to the most hardcore adrenaline junky repeat is welcome.
Wind Kids’ head instructor, Mr. Kibushi, greeted me and my 3 adventure seeking friends at the Tainai Paragliding Club building, a small shed across the parking lot from Tainai Ski Area’s restaurant. After showing us a video explaining how flight and a paraglider works (Mr. Kibushi speaks enough English to make things safe for even the greenest Japanese learner), he led us out to the beginner’s practice field, Tainai Ski Area’s bunny hill. Here, Mr. Kibushi and the other instructors helped us to set up the paragliders’ canopies and put on the back packs/flight seats that the canopies attach to. After some further instructions, we were off and running down the practice hill learning to launch and control the canopy, delayed only by an inconsistent wind and the time it took us to hike back up the hill. Inevitably there were some spills and crashes before take off, but no injuries, and all of us did get the hang of controlling the canopy. I even got airborne very briefly once I learned how not to over-correct.
After a break for lunch - a case of BYOB, bring your own bento, we were taken to the intermediate flying field, a taller steeper more advanced ski run next to the bunny hill. Here Mr. Kibushi explained and demonstrated how to take off, fly and land safely. With a ski lift on the left side of the landing area and the large restaurant building right in front of us, I was just a little bit worried about someone’s flight, or my own, becoming a case of, “George of the Jungle, watch out for that (insert large hard object here).” But Mr. Kibushi’s, and the other instructors,’ years of experience and clear guidance kept everyone on a fight path that brought them safely into the landing zone well away from any obstacles. Under their guidance I was able to log three smooth flights and safe landings, earning me the credentials necessary to make a flight from the top of Tainai Ski Area on my next visit. Flights from the intermediate flying field only last about 30 seconds, but the feeling of flying and the knowledge that you’re in control of that is pretty cool.
Wind Kids only offers paragliding courses on regular 2-day, holiday free weekends, weather permitting, from the beginning of May to about the second weekend of November (November 10th and 11th are the last days of operation this year). Worried about the cost? Don’t be, it’s all yours for ¥3,500! Yes, you read that correctly. You won’t find a thrill this big for a price that small anywhere else. But if you do I wanna know about it. Where will your next weekend adventure take you?